Rochester, NY – Joe Bean Bar and Roastery is known for its high-end coffee and alcohol and its distinguished atmosphere. Joe Bean prides itself on not just serving its customers great beverages, but doing so as condescendingly as possible. Many patrons will say a Joe Bean experience is not complete if you don’t walk away feeling inferior and pedestrian.
The tattooed, often mustachioed employees of Joe Bean are the face of the company, and thus are chiefly responsible for presenting said air of ostentation. We met up with one employee, Ezra Bourdain, to learn about the pressures of keeping up such a contrived facade.
“It’s really quite tough to act this superior all the time,” Bourdain laments, “every customer that comes in is another poor soul I need to enlighten. It’s a heavy burden, man.”
We asked Bourdain his process for interacting with a first-time customer. “I usually like to approach them in an non-threatening way, whether it’s adjusting one of my three scarves, or clasping my hands together and shaking them slightly, as if I were a youth pastor,” Bourdain explains as he sits across from this reporter somehow crossing both legs.
“Then, I’ll ask if this is their first time at the shop, being sure to not refer to it by it’s full name. Priority number one is always instilling a false sense of importance about what they are about to experience. The customer needs to understand that they will not just be tasting coffee, but that they will be tasting locally roasted, overpriced coffee. It really helps justify the fifteen minutes it takes us to prepare their beverage.”
As we discuss Bourdain’s role as a barista, we sample a flight of Latin American small-batch coffees. Bourdain reminding this reporter every couple of minutes to ‘sip lightly, as if it is a first kiss’ and to ‘let the aroma envelop you, let it carry you to bliss.’
Bourdain went on to explain several insecurities he harbors working at Joe Bean. “Yeah friend, I’ve been kept up at night a few times. It weighs on you, being an ambassador to the higher pleasures. I worry sometimes I’m not arrogant or pretentious enough. For example, the other day a customer asked if they could get cream in their coffee and I didn’t even scoff or belittle them. I just politely told them that adding cream to coffee is like watching a Goddard film with subtitles. It’s experiences like those that cause my worry,” Bourdain sipped his ristretto shot in an oddly ashamed manner.
“It’s bleeding outside of work too. The other day, I didn’t even correct an acquaintance when they mispronounced my favorite Russian play. I just let it slide. I let it slide man,” At this, Bourdain became visibly shaken.
When asked if he had any closing thoughts, Bourdain said, “Oh for sure, my band ‘Dew Fell Upon Her Back’ is playing the Bug Jar at the end of July. We are a four piece new wave jazz punk ensemble. Also, you can order a vinyl of our EP on our Etsy account.”